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Pope Francis
March 30, 2013
by J.A. Young
Good Friday, Bad Pope: Meet the New Man
The papacy was one of the first topics covered here at Can the Man.  In one of our first Man articles, Randall Secky laid out a series of grievances concerning the highest Catholic office.  With the recent election of the 266th Catholic father, I would like to revisit his article with an update of the new Man, Pope Francis.  Irrespective of your spiritual beliefs and convictions, the points of criticism that were first addressed by Randall are important.  They are not sweeping indictments against Catholic tradition and religious theology; they are undeniable criticisms of the actions of the papacy.  Similarly, I do not wish to sway the religious beliefs of anyone one way or another; it is my goal to continue on the tradition of exposing the true nature of those in power.

The resignation of Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict, was a strange occurrence.  The last time a pope had resigned from the Church it was burning people alive for suggesting that the Earth traveled around the Sun.  Popes are like Supreme Court justices; they are expected to die on the job.  With the unanticipated and unclear abdication of Benedict, there was speculation that the Church may proceed in a different direction.  Many hoped that the new Holy Father would help to change the image of the Vatican for the better, and distance it from the recent barrage of scandals.

One of the greatest criticisms of those inside the Vatican is that they do not exemplify the piety of Christian teachings.  This was a point that has been raised by Randall, and has a momentous amount of historical evidence to support it.  It becomes difficult for people to take you seriously when you promote the teachings of Jesus while sitting on a throne of gold,  covered in jewels and ornate clothing.  History has repeatedly shown us that the papacy is most often used as a means to amass power and wealth.  Anyone who has been to the Vatican will tell you that it does not exactly epitomize the values of Jesus Christ, who was himself a humble man and a savior of the poor.

At first it seemed that Pope Francis was indeed a step in the right direction.  This was a cardinal from Latin America who had a liberal record of judgment on issues such as civil unions.  He was the first Pope to be elected from the Americas, as well as the first to choose Francis as his official papal name. 
Some of his fledgling actions as Holy Father were characteristic of the values of his namesake St. Francis, and contrary to the opulent reputation of the Church.  Francis did away with the gilded papal throne, favoring a more modest seat.  He also dismissed some of the lavish comforts that his predecessor enjoyed, such as handmade Prada loafers and frequent use of the papal limousine.  Despite these minor indications of forward thinking from the new Holy Father, he has also promptly illustrated his lack of admirable change.  While many people may have wished for a truly progressive pope, Francis has proven to be as unreasonable and imperious as past Vatican sovereigns.

Rather than use his platform of immense power to combat issues that are globally and religiously relevant, such as poverty, health, and hunger, Pope Francis immediately saw fit to condemn homosexuality in one of his first public statements.  The Holy Father adamantly proclaimed that same-sex marriage is the work of the devil, and that gay adoption ought to be considered a form of child abuse. [1]  Even if we forgo the fact that as a cardinal, the new pope supported civil unions, this platitude raises some problems. [2]  Why would the Pope go out of his way to spout the same bigoted dogma of his predecessors while at the same time break with tradition on other issues?  This is because his points of change from previous popes are a façade.  They are insignificant postures intended only to distract us from the fact that considerable progress is still completely lacking.  While Francis has made a point of distancing himself from the adorned papacies of years past, he has also maintained many of the rigid cultural interpretations that the Church has been condemned for.  Yes, he has made an effort to do away with material comforts, but those are changes without serious consequence.  Gandhi’s famous statement, “I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ,” remains a profoundly accurate criticism of Catholic leadership.

The pope’s statement concerning sexuality is particularly troubling when we consider the fact that the Catholic Church purports to deify the teachings of Jesus.  Throughout his cataloged ministry in the Bible, not once did Jesus directly address the issue of homosexuality.  He did, however, repeatedly deplore those who amass wealth and disregard the needs of the poor.  For the new Pope to choose homosexuality as one of his first attacks is not only archaic and prejudicial, it is laughably ironic.  It highlights the juxtaposition that continues to exist between the Vatican, and the teachings of Jesus.  The Catholic Church refrains from actively combating global poverty not because it is unimportant or difficult, but because it would require the selfless shedding of hundreds of years of religious plunder.  It is much easier to do away with custom tailored shoes and have the entire world hypnotized in awe of your humbleness.  The amount of wealth accumulated by the Vatican over centuries remains a mystery, but there is no doubting that they have been perpetually resistant to distributing it charitably.

Compounding the irony of Francis’ statement on homosexuality was his criticism of the way US priests have been shuffled around following accusations of child abuse.  Francis called the system of moving priests around “stupid,” condemning the actions of churches in the United States.[3]  Why the pope would think that such a statement is appropriate in light of the Vatican’s notorious struggles with child abuse and homosexuality remains uncertain.  Following the resignation of Pope Benedict, there were ubiquitous allegations of sexual misconduct within the walls of Vatican City. [4]  In addition to the sexual abuses of children, there have been concerns that male prostitution is now common throughout the Vatican. [4]  It seems as though the newly elected Pope Francis sees fit to recuse himself from any of the past wrongdoings of his institution, preferring instead to dole out fatuous criticism to the rest of the world.

There has always been a worrying divide between the papacy and Christian values.  Legendary popes have taken it upon themselves to slaughter thousands of infidels, torture enlightened thinkers, and amass scores of wealth and power.  The contradictions between the Vatican and the teachings of Jesus are subtler now than they have been in the past, but continue to exist.  The Church has ceased with the overt displays of tyranny and oppression that have come to define it throughout history, but the prejudice and lack of empathy remain. Like Jesus, a truly progressive pope would condemn bigotry and hatred and put the needs of the poor ahead of the primacy of the church.




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